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For the month of April, we have created a video poem for each day. Check each day to see what's new. Spread the word and, most importantly, enjoy!

 

Oakland

Oakland's Bestselling Fiction

 

James Baldwin reads from ANOTHER COUNTRY

Every day is a good day to listen to James Baldwin read. 

Note: Oakland's Queer Person of Color Book Group will be discussing this very book on Monday, March 28th at 7pm. The group, like all our groups & readings, is open to the public. Hope to see you there, East Bay!

Lola Ridge, Anarchist, Activist, and Poet

Who is Lola Ridge?
In short, she's a poet.

Though a poet you may have never heard of: who hung around the likes of Emma Goldman, Marianne Moore, and William Carlos Williams; who has been called the nearest prototype in her time of the proletarian poet of class conflict; who extended her youth by claiming to be ten years younger, avoiding the taboo of being a single woman over forty in the early twentieth century; who was born in Dublin and once married to a New Zealand miner -- the stuff of a revolutionary.



Unjustly pushed out of critics' circles, Lola was a strong voice in activist circles and a prominant poetic archivist of the human landscape of early twentieth-century New York City. Recently she has resurfaced with a few collections and an extensive biography, Anything That Burns You (2016), penned by Terese Svoboda. Robert Gray over at Shelf Awareness talked with Svoboda about Ridge's life and how it occurred that so few of us were hip to it.

Svoboda says,

"I touch on the highlights of her life in the opening few pages: starting with her immobile under rearing police horses at the demonstration against execution of Sacco and Vanzetti," Svoboda told me. "I talk about her trek from New Zealand, dropping her son off at an orphanage, working for Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger, and turning into the doyenne of poetry as a friend of Williams, Moore, Jean Toomer and Hart Crane -- but then I have to go off book and summarize about her struggle with the wealthy Harold Loeb to keep the modernist movement going, her drug use, wandering penniless through Baghdad and taking a lover in Mexico, and the various shenanigans of the poetry world. While daunting, that's what I use to tease them into the q&a. Unlike the biographies of many other writers, hers is so full of incident it seems to have been lived by at least two people."
 
Gray added,

"For booksellers, handselling titles they love means honing the irresistibility factor so potential readers feel they need a particular book. I asked Svoboda how she would approach the handselling challenge with Anything That Burns You. 'I'd say the book turns on its head the idea that poets are extraneous to the cultural conversation,' she replied. 'Lola lived her wild life dedicated to freedom, and that's what America was founded on, and that's what modernism in America was all about, and that's what poetry encourages.'"

Here's an excerpt of Lola Ridge's Debris which appears in Anything that Burns You:

I love those spirits That men stand off and point at,
Or shudder and hood up their souls—
Those ruined ones,
Where Liberty has lodged an hour
And passed like flame,
Bursting asunder the too small house.

Black History Month is Every Month

If you missed it last night, KQED is streaming the phenomenal Independent Lens film on the Black Panthers.

Keeping Our Streets Alive, One Purchase At a Time

There is a movement afoot these days to highlight the broader civic effects of Amazon’s ever-growing market-share in the sale of physical books. Short version: it’s not just you neighborhood bookstore that’s impacted by monopolistic activity (Paul Krugman’s depiction, not our “biased” one), but the economic stability of your community as a whole.

From a recent nation-wide study, “Amazon and Empty Storefronts”:

ESSENTIAL NATIONAL FINDINGS

In 2014, Amazon sold $44.1 billion worth of retail goods nationwide, all while avoiding $625 million in state and local sales taxes.

That is the equivalent of 30,000 retail storefronts, 107 million square feet of commercial space, which might have paid $420 million in property taxes.

A total of more than $1 billion in revenue lost to state and local governments, $8.48 for every household in America.

Amazon also operated 65 million square feet of distribution space, employing roughly 30,000 full-time workers and 104,000 part-time and seasonal workers.

Even counting all the jobs in Amazon distribution centers, Amazon sales produced a net loss of 135,973 retail jobs.

It’s sobering stuff. And we post it not merely to bang the war-drum kettle, but to thank you, our friends and neighbors, for doing your part to resist the deadening of our local streets and workplaces. 

"Games are never merely games"

A small leather ball stuffed with the hair of a dead queen is batted back and forth by two of Europe's most innovative artists. They're hung over, Caravaggio probably still drunk; Quevedo, the Spanish poet, seeks victory to maintain his reputation in the eyes of his royal confidante. Across the world, Hernán Cortés, with the help of his indigenous translator, lover and advisor Malinalli, is bringing about a political and religious revolution. Meanwhile, popes and bankers vie for control of land, art and artifacts, their machinations and desires bringing forth a newly vicious historical era. "Never were the connections among politics, money, art, and semen so tight or so murky," Enrigue writes. "Or so unashamedly happy, tolerant, and fluid."

Have I gone on & on about this book enough yet? Maybe I should let the LA Times do the work this time? After that, it’s you’re turn: Sudden Death hits shelves on Tuesday, February 9.

Rest in Power, C.D. Wright

 

We at Diesel are still mourning the passing of one of our poetry heroes, C.D. Wright. Earlier this week The Paris Review posted Wright's eulogic poem Our Dust and we found it so stirring that we wanted to share.

 

Our Dust

I am your ancestor. You know next-to-nothing
about me.
There is no reason for you to imagine
the rooms I occupied or my heavy hair.
Not the faint vinegar smell of me. Or
the rubbed damp
of Forrest and I coupling on the landing
en route to our detached day.

You didn’t know my weariness, error, incapacity,
I was the poet
of shadow work and towns with quarter-inch
phone books, of failed
roadside zoos. The poet of yard eggs and
sharpening shops,
jobs at the weapons plant and the Maybelline
factory on the penitentiary road.

A poet of spiderwort and jacks-in-the-pulpit,
hollyhocks against the tool shed.
An unsmiling dark blond.
The one with the trowel in her handbag.
I dug up protected and private things.
That sort, I was.
My graves went undecorated and my churches
abandoned. This wasn’t planned, but practice.

I was the poet of short-tailed cats and yellow
line paint.
Of satellite dishes and Peterbilt trucks. Red Man
Chewing Tobacco, Black Cat Fireworks, Triple Hut
Creme Soda. Also of dirt dobbers, nightcrawlers,
martin houses, honey, and whetstones
from the Novaculite Uplift. What remained
of The Uplift.

I had registered dogs 4 sale; rocks, dung,
and straw.
I was a poet of hummingbird hives along with
redhead stepbrothers.

The poet of good walking shoes—a necessity
in vernacular parts—and push mowers.
The rumor that I was once seen sleeping
in a refrigerator box is false (he was a brother
who hated me).
Nor was I the one lunching at the Governor’s
mansion.

I didn’t work off a grid. Or prime the surface
if I could get off without it. I made
simple music
out of sticks and string. On side B of me,
experimental guitar, night repairs and suppers
such as this.
You could count on me to make a bad situation
worse like putting liquid make-up over
a passion mark.

I never raised your rent. Or anyone else’s by God.
Never said I loved you. The future gave me chills.
I used the medium to say: Arise arise and
come together.
Free your children. Come on everybody. Let’s start
with Baltimore.

Believe me I am not being modest when I
admit my life doesn’t bear repeating. I
agreed to be the poet of one life,
one death alone. I have seen myself
in the black car. I have seen the retreat
of the black car.

 

The Radical King

We honor the radical King legacy today. Find your mountaintop today . . .

David Bowie's Favorite Books

It shouldn't surprise us David Bowie was also a superb reader.

It also wouldn't surprise (or upset!) us if at least a few of these become bestsellers once again.

Brad's Literary Long Weekend in the East Bay

Our Oakland bookseller, Brad, is an unabashed cheerleader for the East Bay. Unsurprisingly, he also knows a thing or two about the bookstores in the area. In this recent piece for Literary Hub, he provides a whirlwind bike tour of some of the funkiest ones Oakland and Berkeley has to offer. 

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